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NOTE: This page is about the television series version of the character. For the novel and film versions, see Serena Joy.

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Never mistake a woman's meekness for weakness.
~ Serena Joy

Serena Joy Waterford is the secondary antagonist of the Hulu series The Handmaid's Tale, based on the 1985 novel of the same name.

She is the cruel, fanatically religious wife of Fred Waterford, a Commander in Gilead. She and her husband become the master of June Osborne, a woman they force to be a breeding slave for them known as a "Handmaid" that they name "Offred" and repeatedly rape in order to get her pregnant and steal her child. Throughout the series Serena's loyalty to Gilead fluctuates, with her ultimate goal being to get a child of her own.

In the TV series, she is portrayed by Yvonne Strahovski, who also played Hannah McKay in Dexter, Claire Bradley in Angel of Mine, and Stalyan in Rapunzel's Tangled Adventures.


Serena is highly intelligent, but cold and calculating, and is portrayed as the power behind her weak, socially inept husband. She is also a religious zealot and passionate antifeminist who believes women are meant to be subservient to their husbands and bear children; nevertheless, she desires power in her own right, and tries unsuccessfully to officially influence the Gilead regime. She is fiercely jealous of June, for whom Fred has repressed romantic feelings; she often punishes June unjustly simply to vent her jealous rage. She also feels inadequate because she cannot get pregnant, again taking it out on June.

Following her detainment in Canada and eventually learning that she is pregnant by Fred, Serena's worldview begins to change as she attempts to apologize to June for what she did, and is devastated when June refuses to forgive her. After Gilead abandons Fred and Serena in Canada, the two begin working against Gilead and aiding the United States government, but after June murders Fred Serena once again works alongside Gilead, but after being stuck in the house with the abusive wheelers she decides to finally turn against Gilead permanently, showing that Serena's true loyalty generally lies in her own self preservation and interests.


Early Life[]

Serena is a religious fanatic who believes that the entire world should be a Christian theocracy in which men rule supreme, homosexuality and premarital sex are punishable by death, and, above all, where women are subservient. She schemes with her husband Fred and his circle of like-minded politicians to violently overthrow the U.S. government and make it illegal for women to work or live independently of men.

They also take advantage of the worldwide plague of infertility affecting the majority of women to force fertile women to be "handmaids" - sex slaves - for childless couples. Fred and Serena, who are also infertile, take as their handmaid a woman named June Osborne, whom they name "Offred"; they banish her husband and child and keep her as a virtual prisoner in their house, raping her whenever she is ovulating in hopes that she will become pregnant.


For some people, their work is their passion, if you’re truly blessed.
~ Serena's view of religious roles in Gilead.
We can’t explain this away. We can’t even report it. To have a pregnant Handmaid run away once is bad enough, but twice?
~ Serena's realization that her and Fred are at risk for being executed by Gilead.
As faithful servants, it is our lawful duty to ensure our children live by laws of scripture. Holy scripture is a miracle. It is a gift given by him to all of humanity. We believe that our sons and daughters should be taught to read it.
~ Serena's attempt to sway the Commander's into allowing girls to read scripture.
I’m not an American citizen. My allegiance is to God.
~ Serena's admission that she has no loyalties to any country.
Mental toughness, huh? Right. I have overthrown a country. And I have, against all odds, given birth to a very healthy baby. And not once have I lacked for mental toughness.
~ Serena's volatile response to being told she is mentally weak.



  • Similar to her husband Fred, the character is significantly younger in the television series than she was in the novel.
  • The fifth season of the television adaptation has a redemption arc for Serena, which has been met with a highly polarizing reception from the shows fanbase. This is due to her actions in Gilead being arguably just as bad as her husband, who was killed in the previous season and did not get a redemption despite showing more remorse than Serena at certain times, and the fifth season does not acknowledge the fact that Serena talked Fred into violently raping June in season two in order to induce labor, an event that is completely ignored in order to allow the character to redeem herself.

External Links[]


           The-handmaid-s-tale Villains

Republic of Gilead
The Commander (TV Series) | Warren Putnam | Joseph Lawrence | B. Frederick Judd | George Winslow | Andrew Pryce | Raymond Cushing | Ryan Wheeler | Rob Keyes | Commander MacKenzie

Serena Joy (TV Series) | Naomi Putnam | Alanis Wheeler | Mrs. MacKenzie

Aunt Lydia (Film & TV Series) | Aunt Elizabeth | Aunt Helena

June Osborne